The dreams of Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, and whatever other names have been added to everyone’s mock trades have hit a halt. The stock of a guy who was once hailed as “The Next LeBron,” is at an all-time low and the pipedreams of getting a “Harden-esque” return seems farfetched. If the Sixers are to still make a franchise-altering trade that ships Ben Simmons out, they will be forced to look a tier below their original aiming point for a trade. Here are four names that may still be in play:
While seemingly every mock trade has been built around Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley, the Sixers should remain strong in holding out for De’Aaron Fox. It is unclear if the Kings would even consider dealing him, but Fox fits the mold of a potential second-tier star that the Sixers must alter their search to.
At 23-years-old, De’Aaron Fox is still oozing with potential. He is one of the fastest guys in the league, has an exciting handle, and could fill the shoes of Simmons in running the offense. Fox has seen statistical growth each season and averaged an impressive 25.2 points and 7.2 assists last season. He also is a pesky defender who tallied 1.5 steals per game and could wreak havoc in the fastbreak alongside his Kentucky counterpart Tyrese Maxey if the duo is put together.
On the negative side, Fox is still not quite the missing piece of the puzzle. Similar to Simmons, he lacks in shot creation and perimeter shooting– although not nearly to the same extent. The 6’3 guard is a career 32.6% shooter from beyond the three-point arc on 3.4 attempts per game. This year was his highest percentage of perimeter attempts as Fox took 28.8% of his attempts from beyond the arc, but he is still at his best when driving and attacking the basket.
After inking a five-year $163 million extension with the Kings, De’Aaron Fox would be able to work financially in a straight-up trade for Ben Simmons. At 23-years-old, there is still room for the former fifth overall pick to reach his full potential. He may be a notch below the legitimate star counterpart the Sixers are looking to pair with Joel Embiid, but he may not be in this category by the end of the season.
The Portland Trail Blazers are in a similar spot to the Sixers as a franchise. With one legitimate star in the fold and the franchise in desperate search of finding the right supporting cast, each team has been trapped in mediocrity with the clock ticking on their respective championship window. While Dame Lillard is undoubtedly the biggest prize on the roster, the Blazers clearly want to do everything possible to keep him. His pleas for roster changes must be answered if Portland wants to keep which will likely result in McCollum being traded this offseason.
He is not Dame Lillard but CJ McCollum would also be a very good fit alongside Joel Embiid. The 29-year-old averaged 23.1 points and 4.7 assists per game this season while launching a refreshing 8.9 three-point attempts per game. The former Lehigh product connected on 40.2% of these attempts and McCollum is effective in creating his own shot.
While he is a great theoretical on-court fit, there is a reason the Trail Blazers have failed to take the next step as a team. McCollum is not capable of being the lead guy on the team and, similar to what is seen with the Sixers and Embiid, the Blazers are forced to simply tread water without Dame Lillard on the court.
He is slightly more of a complete player, but CJ McCollum also has many overlapping similarities to Seth Curry. The Sixers would struggle a great deal defensively when both of these guys are on the court, which was seen during their time in Portland together. In addition, McCollum is not a great offensive initiator which would likely mean the Sixers will need to add a point guard as well. At 6’3, the Sixers would be beginning to put together an undersized backcourt which also isn’t ideal.
The lingering issue with this is also that it may end up cementing Lillard’s spot in Portland. Dame has openly stated how the front office needs to make changes and helping them do this would decrease the Sixers’ chances of him demanding out. These are the type of chess decisions that make running a front office so difficult and where the balance of fit vs talent comes into play.
After nearly falling to the Sixers in the Jahlil Okafor (2015) draft, D’Angelo Russell would be a great story to finish The Process. The Minnesota Timberwolves have shown a large amount of interest in Ben Simmons and it appears to be one of the more likely landing spots at this point.
The playstyle of the 25-year-old is nearly perfect for the Sixers. He is an effective ball-handler, has some playmaking ability, and can score in a variety of ways. Russell averaged 19 points and 5.8 assists last season and is a 36% three-point shooter over the course of his career. Since entering the league the combo guard has had the look and feel of a future star but has failed to fully take additional strides in his game.
Despite the seemingly seamless fit, D’Angelo Russell may simply not be good enough for what the Sixers need. The former Ohio State product has played for four different NBA teams throughout his career and failed to ever be on a team with a record above 42-40 (2018-19 Nets). He lacks some “pop” in his movement and is one of the most inconsistent players in the entire NBA.
When he is at his best, D’Angelo Russell would certainly be a player that helps the Sixers. Adding Russell and potentially another player (such as Malik Beasley) could still be in play for the Sixers, but it is disappointing the quality does not always match the promising fit. It seems likely that a third team would have to be involved for a deal to get done, but finding a team to link the moving parts has not proved to be an easy task.
The Raptors are in an interesting spot as an organization. After finishing 12th in the East last season, Toronto is forced to make the decision of whether to just retool or enter a full rebuild. Regardless of how the roster shakes out, it seems unlikely there can be any long or short-term success with Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and first-round pick Scottie Barnes on the court together. With a potential rift between Siakam and Nick Nurse making him the likely candidate to get sent packing, he could be a potential target for the Sixers.
The 6’9 forward is a very interesting player. Siakam is 26 years old and most recently averaged 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. He received the 2018-19 Most Improved Award, is a one-time all-star, and is a former NBA champ. Siakam is also a tweener when looking at position, but possesses more shot creation than Simmons and is a career 32.5% three-point shooter on 2.9 attempts per game.
On the negative side of things, Siakam is not the solution to the fit problems the Sixers have repetitively faced. Spicy P would not be a clean fit next to Tobias Harris as both are at their best as semi-stretch power forwards. He has some creation and scoring ability but is far from the go-to scorer to pair with Joel Embiid.
Most of the Simmons to Toronto rumors were centered around some sort of Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade, and these rumors have settled down since the veteran landed in Miami. Siakam would have been a very interesting additional piece in the Lowry deal but is not as enticing as the focal point. There also has been a growing sense around the Toronto organization that there may be more of a long-term future of Siakam as a Raptor.
Do the Sixers Pull the Trigger?
It is tough to sit back and look at any of these options and feel great about the Sixers’ upgraded title chances. The Ben Simmons experiment in Philadelphia certainly feels as if it has run its course, but finding a deal that suits the team best has not proved to be an easy task. Despite the seemingly mutual interest in a breakup, the chances of Simmons returning as a member of the Sixers is seeming more and more likely.
Franchises around the NBA have not forgotten the postseason failures of Simmons and his value appears to remain at the all-time low. While bringing him back to start next season to raise his value is far from the certainty that it is made out to be, there is a real argument that it is the Sixers’ best course of action. The lack of fair value offers for Simmons has forced this saga to drag out and this difficult situation may not be any closer to being solved.
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